Should a roadmap be public?

Published on December 14, 2015 by Antti Hietala



Should you publish a product roadmap or keep it internal? In this post I argue that public is better. I compare vendor roadmaps in the content management industry to show that public is the norm. Once you decide to go public there are a couple of pitfalls to avoid.

 

Public is better

Public or private? Surprisingly, you may have little choice regarding this decision. Do your competitors have public roadmaps? If yes, you are pretty much expected to show yours. Other players in your field may already have set the expectation.

It is rather difficult to explain to a prospect why you don’t have a public roadmap if all your competitors have one. The prospect will think that you are weird. Not the cool kind of weird like Apple that uses secrecy to build up hype. The other kind.

By not publishing a roadmap you may think you are sending a message that your product is at the cutting edge and requires stealth. But prospects and clients interpret secrecy differently. They conclude that you either don’t have a roadmap or don’t know what to do next. The latter is worse because by sharing a roadmap you would get feedback and would have a better chance of working on the right things.

 

Roadmap round-up

Let’s compare some vendor roadmaps in the content management industry. There’s a lot of open-source software in this field. Open communication often goes hand in hand with open source. Sharing a roadmap is more or less the norm. But not every company makes their roadmap equally easy to find.

  • Adobe Experience Manager: Adobe does not have a roadmap page you could simply look up. The Experience Manager product roadmap was presented at the EVOLVE15 community summit. The keynote presentation slides are shared. See slide 43 for a short, high-level roadmap in five focus areas. To comprehend the items on Adobe’s roadmap you either need good knowledge of the product to understand why they were chosen or someone must talk you through the roadmap. This is a general issue with slides. Slides don’t really open up by just looking.
  • Acquia & Drupal: Acquia implements solutions based on Drupal. You need both roadmaps to understand what is happening in this community. Drupal Core is an open-source project so communication around the project is public. While there is no forward-looking roadmap you can follow the project’s announcements to get an idea of the team’s priorities. With Acquia the job gets more difficult. Acquia has decided not to publish a roadmap, which makes the company an outlier in this market. You must attend an exclusive partner webinar to get a glimpse into the product’s future.
  • Hippo has a clear public roadmap page. The items are minimal but you get a good idea where the company focuses on next. Hippo shows confidence in their ability to deliver the features on time by scheduling the roadmap. Scheduling is an exception among CMS vendor roadmaps. Most companies shy away from putting dates or even quarters in their roadmaps. Why? We’ll get to that in the next post.
  • Kentico’s public roadmap is detailed and tells a story of each improvement area. This is a great way to tell prospects and clients where the product is heading. For Kentico 9, the company chose to focus on three areas: platform, Web content management and online marketing. A footnote rightly states that this roadmap is not a commitment. Another pitfall avoided.
  • Liferay, like Adobe, doesn’t make it easy to find their product roadmap. Camouflaged in Liferay Detroit roadshow slides (18 onwards) are high level themes such as performance and audience targeting. The slides alone don’t tell the whole story. You really need someone to talk through them and explain the improvements. An independent evaluator who considers the product will have little understanding of what the company actually plans to deliver unless they attend the roadshow.
  • Magnolia provides a public roadmap on their development wiki. The items are storified, with reasoning and detail provided. In contrast to Hippo, Magnolia does not put dates or release numbers on the deliverables. A roadmap is a plan and plans change.

 

The CMS industry has a huge number of vendors, way more than is listed above. But even this small selection is indicative: publishing and communicating a roadmap is the norm.

Decided to go public? Great! Look out for my next post Pitfalls of public roadmaps to avoid two common mistakes.



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About the author Antti Hietala

Antti Hietala is a product manager at Magnolia. He is tasked with articulating Magnolia's value proposition to sales and professional services. In constant contact with users, he feeds the product roadmap with front-line input. Antti's key responsibilities include internal communication, product roadmap and feature specifications. Follow him on Twitter @antarctic74.


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